Have All The Hadeeth Survived Till This Day?
Imaam Bukhaari states that he had memorised over 600,000 hadeeth from which he extracted about 7000 for his saheeh, (or about 2600 without repetition) [Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadee, Taareekh Baghdaad, 2/8]. Those with a sickness in their hearts, use this statement to say that there are so many saheeh ahaadeeth which have not survived to this day and age. Ash-Shaykh Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami refutes such a claim by saying:
As for the problem of enormous numbers, every channel of transmition is counted as a separate hadeeth. ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Mahdee (d. 198) said: “I have 13 traditions from Al-Mugheerah transmitting from the Prophet (saw) concenrining “al-mash ‘alaa al-khuffayn.” ” It is quite obvious that Al-Mugheerah is reporting a single action of or habit of the Prophet. It does not matter how many times this action was repeated. It would be reported as a single action. As this single action is reported to ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Mahdee from 1 channels
The first four centuries of the hijrah were the golden age for the science of transmition and the number of transmitters grew tremendously.
Ibn Khuzaymah (d. 311) gives some 30 isnaads for one hadeeth in one chapter, concerning the single act of ‘Aa’ishah, for cleansing the cloth. Meanwhile it is obvious that there might have been many other channels of transmition which were unknown to him.
Muslim Ibn Hajjaaj (d. 261) cites the names of a number of transmitters,when he argues about certain points, especially when there is a mistake committed by some transmitters. For example, he gives 13 traditions concerning the single incident of Ibn ‘Abbaas and his tahajjud prayer. In the prayer he stood on the left side of the Prophet and then the Prophet pulled him to his right side. Yazeed Ibn Abee Ziyaad related on the authority of Kulaib, that Ibn ‘Abbaas stood on the right side of th Prophet, but he was placed on the left. On this occasion Muslim gives 13 isnaads – making 13 hadeeths – contradicting Yazeed’s statement. Further, he does not give the complete isnaad ad their full growth until his time. He mostly gives details of channels until about 130 AH> Had he given the complete comprehensive isnaad flourishing in his own time, they might have grown to 50 traditions at least.
There have been some traditionists who claim that they had every hadeeth from 100 channels, and many others who have written every hadeeth from 20 or 30 channels. So we may now infer what the real numbers of the traditions were which were described as 600,000.
Another point is that they were not purely traditions of the Prophet (saw), but the sayings of the Companions and the Successors and their legal decisions as well; the word “hadeeth” covers all these subjects and matters in some scholars’ terms…
Now it is clear that when traditionists give enormous numbers for the traditions, they mean channels and sources of their transmission, and so not man real numbers of hadeeth. But when they give small figures, saying: “Al-Zuhree has 1,000 hadeeth, or Al-Qaasim has 200 hadeeth” they most probably man hadeeth as a subject matter not counted according to its isnaad.
[“Studies In Early Hadeeth Literature”, by M. M. AlAzami; Suhail Academy; Lahore, Pakistan; Pp. 302-3]